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The Abominable Vice of Alcohol

Far away from here, from this my beloved Mexican homeland, travelling along other roads, the winds of destiny took me to that ancient South American city which in pre-Colombian times was called Bacata (in native Chibcha language).

This is a bohemian, melancholic city with its 19th century creole mentality; a smoky town in a deep valley...

A poet said of this marvelous metropolis:

“The city of Bacata spins in the rain like an unbalanced carousel, a neurotic city that covers its hours with scarves of cloud.”

At that time the First World War had already begun... What times those were, oh God of mine! What times! Better now to exclaim with Ruben Dario:

“Youth, divine treasury, thou leavest without return, when I want to weep I cannot, yet sometimes I weep against my will.”

How much sorrow I still feel remembering so many of my friends who are already dead! The years have passed on by...

This was the era of the bohemian’s toast and Julio Flores, the years in which the writers Lope de Vega and Gutierrez de Cetina were in fashion.

Whosoever wanted to boast of being intelligent then, between one drink and another, recited that sonnet of Lope de Vega, that reads:

“Violante commands me to write a sonnet; I have never in my life seen myself in such a fix, a sonnet is said to be fourteen verses, with tongue in cheek, three go ahead.

“I thought I would not find a consonant and I am in the middle of another quartet, but if I see myself in the first triplet, nothing can scare me in the quartets.

“I am entering the first triplet and still I boast of starting off on the right foot since with this verse, I reach the end.

“I am in the second triplet and still suspect that the thirteen verses I’ll complete count if there are fourteen and it is done.”

Evidently, in that creole environment, bards stayed awake all night finishing this kind of recitation to shouts of admiration and storms of applause.

Those were the times for the bohemian’s toasts, years in which knights would risk their lives for any lady that passed by on the street...

Someone introduced me to a friend with a scintillating intellect, much given to the metaphysical type of study. Roberto was his name and if I do not mention his surname, it is with the obvious intention of not hurting anyone’s feelings.

Roberto was the illustrious offspring of a departmental representative in the National Chamber of that country.

With a glass of choice bacara in his right hand, drunk with wine and passion, that bard with his unruly head of hair, stood out everywhere before intellectuals, in shops, bars, and cafés.

The extraordinary erudition that young man possessed was certainly worthy of admiration. He would discuss Juan Montalvo and his seven treatises as readily as he would recite the triumphal march of Ruben Dario...

However, there were more or less lengthy respites in his tempestuous life. At times, he seemed repentant and would shut himself in the National Library for long hours day after day.

I advised him many times to abandon the abominable vice of alcohol forever, but my advice was to no avail; sooner or later that young man would return to his old adventures.

One night while my physical body slept in bed, it happened that I had a very interesting astral experience. With terrified eyes, I saw myself at a horrendous precipice overlooking the sea. Whilst gazing into the abysmal darkness I observed small, swift ships in full sail approaching the cliffs. The sailors’ screams and the sound of the anchors and oars verified that those small crafts had reached the gloomy shore.

I saw lost souls, sinister people, appallingly twisted, grisly people, disembark menacingly.

Unreal shadows ascended to the heights where Roberto and I stood.

Terrified, Roberto plunged, head first, falling into the abyss like an inverted pentagram, and was lost once and for all in the stormy waters.

I cannot deny that I did the same, but instead of sinking beneath the waters of the Ponto, I floated deliciously, while a star smiled on me from space.

It is clear that such an astral experience impressed me vividly; I understood the future that was awaiting my friend.

Years passed and as I continued my journey along the path of life, I moved away from that smoky bohemian city.

Long after, far off in time and distance, travelling along the coasts of the Caribbean sea, I arrived at the port of Rio del Hacha, which is now the capital of the Guajira Peninsula. A town of sandy tropical roads by the seashore, of hospitable and charitable people with faces sunburnt...

I have never been able to forget those Guajira Indians clothed in such beautiful tunics and shouting everywhere: “Carua (charcoal)! Carua! Carua!”

“Piraca (come here), piraca, piraca!” the housewives cried from the doors of every house for the purpose of buying the necessary fuel.

“Haita maya (I love you very much),” says the Indian man when winning the love of an Indian woman. “Ai macai pupura (days come and go),” she would answer.

There are unusual circumstances in life, tremendous surprises; for me one of them was the encounter with that very bard whom I had known before in the city of Bacata.

He came to me ranting openly in the street, drunk with wine as always, and to make matters worse, in the most dreadful misery. It was obvious that this intellectual luminary had degenerated shockingly with the vice of alcohol.

All of my efforts to get him away from the vice were useless. Every day he went from bad to worse.

New Year’s Day was approaching. Everywhere the drums resounded inviting the village to the public festivities, to the dances held in many houses, and to the orgies.

One day as I was sitting beneath the shade of a tree, deep in meditation, upon hearing the voice of the poet I came out of my ecstatic state...

Roberto had arrived barefoot, face emaciated and body half-naked; my friend was now a panhandler. The ego of alcohol had transformed him into a beggar.

Staring at me and extending his right hand he exclaimed: “Give me alms.”

“What do you want alms for?”

“To collect enough money to buy a bottle of rum.”

“I am very sorry friend, believe me, I shall never cooperate with vice. Abandon the path of perdition.”

Once those words were said, that shadow retired silently and taciturnly.

New Year’s eve arrived. That unruly mopped bard wallowed like a pig in the mud, drinking and begging from orgy to orgy...

Losing his reason completely under the disgusting effects of alcohol, he got into a fight; he evidently said something for which he was given a tremendous thrashing.

Afterwards, the police intervened with the sound intention of bringing the thrashing to an end, and as is normal in these cases, the bard ended up in jail.

The epilogue to this tragedy, whose author was naturally the ego of alcohol, is really macabre and blood-curdling because that poet hanged himself. Those who saw him the following day said he was found hanging by the neck from the bars of the prison cell.

The funeral was magnificent, and many people gathered at the cemetery to say their last farewell to the bard.

Grieving, I continued my journey after all this, moving away from that coastal port.

Much later, I decided to investigate directly my disembodied friend in the astral world.

This type of metaphysical experiment can be achieved by projecting the eidolon, the magic double, about which Paracelsus talked so much.

To leave the dense form certainly was not difficult for me. The experience was marvelous.

Floating with the eidolon in the astral atmosphere of the planet Earth, I entered through the gigantic doors of a great building.

Situated at the foot of a flight of stairs that led to the upper floors, I could discern a fork in the steps near the base.

I cried out in an immense voice, pronouncing the name of the deceased, and then patiently awaited the outcome...

The latter certainly did not keep me waiting long. I was startled by a great mob of people who rushed headlong down each side of the forked staircase.

The whole group came and encircled me, “Roberto, my friend! Why did you commit suicide?”

I knew that all of these people were Roberto, but I found no one to whom I could address myself; I met not one responsible character, not one individual... I had before me a pluralized ego, a mass of devils; my disembodied friend did not possess a permanent center of consciousness.

The experiment came to a conclusion when that legion of selves retired, ascending the divided staircase.